Guide to Christmas in Northern Virginia: Traditions and Parades

Old Town Alexandria Scottish Walk
Courtesy of Visit Alexandria

Northern Virginia is a wonderful place to celebrate Christmas as many communities host special holiday events, such as small-town Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, holiday parades, visits with Santa, lively community sing-alongs, and decorated historic homes. This guide will help you enjoy the season and make Christmas 2018 a season to remember.

Enjoy Christmas in Old Town Alexandria - Throughout the holiday season, the City of Alexandria hosts wonderful events including the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, the Scottish Walk weekend, the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, candlelight tours, Christmas in Camp, and a variety of holiday concerts. Alexandria is also a great place to shop for unique Christmas gifts.

Meander Mount Vernon - November 23, 2018 - December 31, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. visit Mount Vernon for an old-fashioned holiday experience. Christmas at one of Northern Virginia’s top attractions transports visitors back in time to experience the holidays like George Washington did with themed decorations, a gingerbread Mount Vernon, historical chocolate-making demonstrations, 18th-century dancing, and even a Christmas camel. Open Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

See the Lights at Bull Run - Every year from Thanksgiving until just after New Year’s Day enjoy the Bull Run Festival of Lights located at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville. This festive display of lights features penguins, snowmen, deer, candy canes and Santa. You can drive through 2.5 miles of lighting displays. After viewing the lights you can visit the Winter Wonderland Holiday Village that includes amusement rides, an ice skating rink, entertainment, shopping, contests, food, and more.

Experience Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg - Throughout the holiday season, Colonial Williamsburg comes to life with its world-renowned holiday decorations and 18th-century seasonal programming. Beating drums, trilling fifes, firework displays, theatrical programs, and interpretive characters take visitors back in time to celebrate the holidays as people did during colonial times. 

Find a Bright Christmas at Busch Gardens - November 17, 2018 - January 5, 2019, take the family to see one of the largest Christmas lights displays in North America. The Williamsburg, Virginia amusement park is transformed into a Christmas wonderland, combining an immersive holiday experience with one-of-a-kind shopping and dining opportunities, all-new holiday shows and a spectacular light-dancing Christmas tree.

Take in the Holiday Parade in Reston - November 23, 2018. Enjoy a full day of celebration with the Northern Virginia community with the Annual Race for the Kids, a Thanksgiving parade, visits with Santa, the tree lighting, and carriage rides. For more to do, Reston Town Center also has an Ice Skating Pavilion open all day and every day from November until March.

Enjoy the Manassas Christmas Parade - December 1, 2018 head for Old Town Manassas to celebrate the Christmas season. Each year Manassas puts on its holiday finery with a weekend of old-fashioned family fun at the "Merry Old Town" celebration. The festivities include a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, the Manassas Christmas Parade, a gingerbread contest and lots of holiday activities for all ages. The parade begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Watch the Riding to The Hounds at Middleburg - On December 1, 2018, Middleburg is a wonderful place to celebrate the Christmas holiday in Northern Virginia. Traditional festivities include the Middleburg Hunt where approximately 100 horses, riders in red hunt coats, and dozens of hounds ride through the town.

Have Fun at Lake Anne Village Center - December 1, 2018, in Reston, Virginia you can welcome the holidays with a Lake Anne tradition of a petting zoo, entertainment, ornament-making for children, Faux Bear, holiday market vendors, and the arrival of Santa by barge. Santa sails in at 12:00 p.m. to visit with children on the plaza. The event is free, presented by Lake Anne Merchants Association.

Find the Light at the Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols - December 1, 2018, 12 noon 6 p.m. at the Sherwood Community Center in Historic Downtown Fairfax, Virginia you can enjoy a day of holiday cheer and festivities including lunch with Santa, s'more’s by the yule log, ice sculpting, hot cider, face painting, Christmas tree lighting, and caroling.

Line Up for the McLean Winterfest Parade - December 2, 2018, at 3:30 p.m., McLean, Virginia celebrates the holiday season with its one and only community parade. The parade route runs along Chain Bridge Road beginning at Fleetwood Road and ending at Elm Street.

Head to Leesburg for Christmas Events - Throughout the holiday season, the Historic town of Leesburg celebrates with a variety of community events including a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, a holiday craft show, and a holiday parade, festival, and concert. Leesburg is also a great place to enjoy shopping, dining, and seasonal cheer.

Oatlands Historic House and Gardens - November 23 - December 30, 2018. in Leesburg, Virginia the 360-acre estate comes alive with historic and handcrafted decorations, live music, unique shopping, and afternoon tea. The Pickwick Players will perform a variety of Christmas vignettes and sing Christmas music in the historic Carriage House. The mansion is open Monday - Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, Noon to 5:00 p.m. While you're there, find the perfect gift at the Historic Carriage House Shop, and don't forget to visit the formal terraced garden which is beautiful in every season.